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Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 19

Ephesians (Part 2)

Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 19
Watching Now
Ephesians (Part 2)

VII. EPHESIANS: UNITY IN DIVERSITY AS A WITNESS TO THE "POWERS"

A. Ephesians Outline [General]

1. Theological exposition: The blessings of salvation (Chapters 1-3)

2. Ethical implications (Chapters 4-6)

B. Ephesians Outline [Detailed]

1. Greetings (1:1-2) – recall encyclical theory

2. Theological exposition: The blessings of salvation (1:3-3:21) – all one large prayer?

a. Praise God for blessings in the Trinity (1:3-14)

b. Prayer for understanding of hope and power (1:15-23)

c. The certainty of salvation (2:1-10)

i. The future as past: Co-resurrected and exalted (2:1-7)

ii. The past as present: Saved by grace which produces works (2:8-10)

d. The reconciliation of salvation (2:11-3:21)

i. Unity of Jews and Gentiles (2:11-22)

ii. Paul's stewardship of this unity (chapter 3)

3. Ethical implications (Chapters 4-6)

a. Growing up into Christian Unity (4:1-16)

i. The source is the Trinity (1-6)

ii. The method is the gifts of the Spirit (7-16)

b. Walking in Christian morality (4:17-5:16)

i. Putting on new person – renewing image of God (4:17-24)

ii. Putting off old person – falsehood (4:25-5:16)

c. Knowing God's will: the filling of the Spirit (5:17-6:9)

i. The main commands (5:17-18), fleshed out as:

ii. Praising God (v. 19)

iii. Giving thanks for everything (v. 20)

iv. Observing relationships of authority (5:21-6:9)

d. Standing firm against demonic realm (6:10-17)

i. Struggle in the "heavenlies" (10-12)

ii. Resistance through God's armor (13-18)

e. Concluding comments (6:19-23)

C. Spiritual Warfare in Ephesians


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  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

     

  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.

     

  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.

 

Dr. Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
nt512-19
Ephesians (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript

 

This is the 19th lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. 

 

In this part of Ephesians, we find that the theme of unity and diversity continues. What does it mean to grow up and mature into that Christian unity? Each believer is given one or more gifts that may or may not be identical to the gifts of others as shown in 1st Corinthians 12 and also mentioned in Romans 12. We shouldn’t be surprised at the source of these gifts being from the triune God which is the perfect analogy of unity and diversity (verses 1 – 6). The entire purpose of the giving of the gifts of the spirit as we read in chapter 4:12 is to equip his people for works of service so that the body of Christ is built up until we reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God. This can also be described as being mature or measuring up to the fullness of Christ in us. As chapter 4 continues, Paul’s ethical exhortations become a bit more general, more like an abstract virtue list similar to other Greco-Roman literature. Time prevents us from commenting on all of them except for 4:15 of speaking the truth in love. Not even a full sentence in the original Greek but so much of the Christian morality is encapsulated in it, and so much of Christian individuals have an imbalanced appropriation of one or the other of these two attributes over-shadowing the other.  We must speak the truth, doctrine; biblical teaching in detail, the exposition of Scripture, the legitimate application of God’s inerrant truthful word must be a central part of Christian ministry of every kind in every place and age and of individual Christian witness to both insiders and outsiders to their faith. So many branches of the church and segments of Christian ministry and idiosyncrasy of individual personalities have been so afraid of offending others or an exaggerated way concerned with the unity of the church. The truth has been sacrificed, not peripheral issues but fundamental Christian issues. So too, a large segment of the Christian church, at times even in reaction to the first trend, swung the pendulum back in the opposite direction when the truth was clearly emphasized but love was clearly lost in the process. People were figuratively, if not literally, beaten over their heads with the truth in a way that made it almost impossible to hear that truth when a far more tactful and loving and kind approach could have accomplished so much more in application of Jesus’ golden rule of doing to others as you would have them do unto you. We need them both and in balance. 

 

417 – 5:16 continue to broaden out themes of walking in Christian morality more generally. But the imagery, much like of taking off old clothes and putting on new clothes symbolized in the new baptismal garments which the first several centuries of Christians were regularly amerced. Imagery of putting and putting off is perhaps the most pervasive or dominant one in this segment of the letter to the Ephesians. Elsewhere the order is chorological of putting off and putting on, here the focus is of the Ephesians have already become and what they are to grow into becomes first in having particularly the image of God renewed in them following the language in the parallel passage in chapter 3:10 of Colossians to interpret 4:24 which reads to put on the new self, the new person created to be like God, that is, in his image, morally though not anthologically in true righteousness and holiness, clarifying that it is morality that we are talking about. And thus the old person is put off with all of the falsehoods associated with it. Of the many things we can comment on 4:25 – 5:16, perhaps, one of the least focused on and yet crucial, particularly for modern western Christians who are caught up in the frantic pace of 21st century life in the West in 5:15. Be very careful then on how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. As fast a pace as life is and as transient and fleeting as the years of our lives are, we dare not waste any of it. This is no call for work-alcoholism as some of us need to slow down and do less. But it is a call whether in desperate needed physical recreation to bring us back to physical and mental health, whether it is in family time, so crucial when so many families have so little time together and often fracture as a result or whether it is in more explicit Christian service or at the work place living out ones vocation, recognizing as we saw in 2nd Thessalonians that working well is a part of holiness, itself. And in whatever area we find ourselves in, let us make sure that what we do pleases God and counts in some way for his ongoing kingdom work and priorities, because the days are not only fleeting as we know from watching the world around us, first hand and virtually. The days are very evil. 

 

With the paragraph, arguably begun at 5:17, Paul now prepares to introduce an equivalent of sorts with the domestic house code we saw in the second half of Colossians. 5:17 begins, ‘therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is,’ and as we mentioned in 1st Thessalonians 4 and Romans 12, again it is going to be unpacked, among other things, in fundamentally moral terms. And what is the Lord’s will? Verse 18 summarizing with, ‘and do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.’ What does it means to be filled with the spirit? We see in the Book of Acts, believers repeatedly, sometimes the same ones, are said to be filled with the spirit in context with the implication sometimes, they had not been. In the Book of Acts, whenever someone is said to be filled with the spirit, he or she is empowered for bold witness or service, often accompanied by the verbal proclamation of God’s word. Paul also uses language which suggests the filling of the spirit unlike the baptism which is the once for all initiation of a believer into the body of Christ just as water baptism symbolizes that initiation. The filling of the spirit is a continually repeated process for he uses the present tense command in 5:18, be filled and keep on being filled with the spirit, but every time we need our faith to focus on how the spirit would prompt us for obedience to God’s work. He does not fully animate everything that we do. What is Paul particularly concerned about? Is it being the outgrowth of the filling of the spirit in the Ephesian church and the other nearby communities? He goes on to explain, praise God, giving thanks for everything and submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ. 

 

Here, his words, particularly to wives and husbands appear in much fuller form than in Colossians: also we will reframe from any further comment on the theology of gender roles until we look at all of key passages in a different lecture.  But, however one interprets the mutual submission between wives and husbands, children and parents; note that without that submission, the authority figures to love and give and not harm and not provoke and mistreat those in subordination to them. Without obedience to these twin sets of commands, one cannot say that one is filled with the spirit. We don’t hear much in those contexts in teaching in which the Holy Spirit occurs in the contemporary church. We tend to hear all kinds of things that have no basis in New Testament text where the language of the filling of the Spirit occurs. 

 

Finally, Paul comes to his teachings in 6:10 – 17 about standing firm against the demonic realm; the struggle going on in the heavenly places, probably referring here to that second heaven that we discussed when we talked about 2nd Corinthians 12, the invisible realm between atmosphere and God’s throne room where in common Jewish thought, angles and demons did battle; to use the current vernacular, where spiritual warfare takes place. We can understand why Paul calls it the heavenly places, a term occurring five times in Ephesians and nowhere else in the New Testament where we will see momentarily, perhaps for good reason. How does one resist in this spiritual warfare? Paul answers by one of his famous extended metaphors, just as he had spoken of the body of Christ in 1st Corinthians 12. Taking language from Isaiah and other prophetic texts and reusing it, sometimes in different ways to show us that there are no necessarily deep details between parts of armor and theological attributes they represent but rather that the further package of the appropriate Christian response, however one presents it. Putting on the full armor of God as 6:13 phrases it, involves truth (verse 14), righteousness, the Gospel of Peace and the readiness to proclaim it (verse 15), faith (verse 16), salvation (verse 17) and the Word of God, all supported by prayer and the power of the Spirit (verses 18 – 20). Nothing exotic here, no unusual formulas or bizarre methodologies; just fundamental Godly Spirit filled Christian living supported by prayer, according to his word will do more than enough to keep the devil away, but how little we avail ourselves of it. 

 

At this point, we might be tempted to stop but I promised I would come back after our overview of this marvelous epistle and return to the question whether it is in fact true as so often it has seemed that Ephesians had little to uniquely do with the church in Ephesian. When we read the teaching in chapter 19 of the Book of Acts, we discover that among other things, there was a great cash of magical papyri, documents within magical formulas and occult paraphernalia for invoking various Greek and Roman gods and goddesses in a way that was designed to try to manipulate them into granting people’s wishes. And Paul is described as taking part in what we might call the first book or scroll burning ceremony in the history of the Christian movement. Ephesus for a center for many Greco-Roman cults, not least the dionysiac (Greek – dionysiakos) cult, the god of wine, and of course the shrine of artemis invoked by Demetrius who lead the trade guild of craftsmen that fashioned the silver idols, images of the goddess, herself, was the goddess of the hunt initially, but eventual a goddess of fertility as well. As the many breasted statues of Artemis, once found in the giant temples that formed one of the ancient wonders of the world, including Nephesis, now visible in a miniature replica in the British museum in London. Is it true, that Ephesians has so little to do with Ephesian issues? Clinton Arnal, evangelical Christian writer who has done writings on Ephesians and Colossians argues not and points to a series of phenomena from the beginning to the end of the book which suggests that an integrating theme of Ephesians is this climatic topic at the end of the letter body of spiritual warfare and the victory that the Christian has over it and over the demonic realm.  

 

The repeated references to the heavenly places in 1:3, 1:20 – 6, 3:10, 6:12 are not a sign of Pauline authorship as some would charge, but of the unique combination of Jewish and Greek thought that lead to this invisible realm of heavenly warfare. Where, but in Ephesus or where as much as in Ephesus could such a center of demonic attack be said to be housed. The universal lordship and the fullness of Christ in 1:10 and 21 – 23, a lot of which believers can share. Read 1:23, 3:19 and 4:13 again, uniquely vanquishing the hostel powers that enslaved the pagan Ephesians and the term for fullness already introduced in Colossians, (Greek – Pleroma)  the Pleroma, meaning fullness, eventual a unique term used for the Gnostic god-head. We can forget the initial encouragement that the doctrine of election provided in a pagan world where no one believed. There was possibly uniquely chosen by the god and goddesses giving great security in a world where these deities seemed to act arbitrarily, at least for those who did not fully master the magical rites that could guarantee human power over them. Paul’s repeated prayer that the Ephesians might know Christ’s great power and his love. His resurrection and our co-resurrection with him as a victory over the prince of the power of the earth, Satan himself in this unseen realm of the second heaven is still in view. For Jews as well, the triumph over a feudal background that preserved the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and gentile that led to the division in the temple between court of the gentiles and the Jews, between Jewish women and the men, between the Jewish laymen and priests, between the priests and the holy of holies where the high priest could go alone once a year. The temple itself is a place where God’s dwells; it’s not just a place of individuals but collectively it’s considered one, just like the church, a community of God’s people who are to be holy. Holy in the sense that creates closeness to God. 

 

Paul uses many of the same concepts concerning spiritual gifts and with this in mind speaks of Christ and his resurrection and ascension.  He triumphed over the grave and the dead and therefore as a result, he gave gifts to his people, spiritual gifts because of Christ’s triumph over these powers, changing the special metaphor of the underworld, the power of more living and being filled with the spirit, being transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (verse 5:8); being filled with the spirit as opposed being controlled by the dionysiac cult. Again, hinting to the lecture on gender roles, valuing women as whole persons. If we place the Ephesian house hold of the 1st century background, particularly the Ephesians propensity to look at women as sex objects as baby makers in the worship of the fertility god, Artemis. Nothing remotely of that comes through in Paul’s words of husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, to present them to him unblemished and spotless. Surely, married women can submit to men with that kind of mandate. And even in the mitts of the Ephesians house code, a reminder of a higher authority than the husbands and parents and slave masters as each in his own way must give account to God. Understand that a distinctive feature in a Roman world where in certain arenas of life, the father of the family had the power of life and death over those under him.  So by the time we reach the metaphor of spiritual armor, this is not a new topic, it is the climax of the theme of spiritual warfare that has pervaded the entire epistle. Can we believe this was intended to be written in the 60’s by Paul to Ephesians? If there is any truth about anything else we know about Ephesus, the answer would be yes. But notice what is absent in all of this, not a word has been spoken in Ephesians about exorcism, casting out of the devil, warding him off through the kind of rituals and incantations which have often characterized Christian fascination of the devil and his power, practices that more resemble the occult magic that Paul would have nothing to do with in Ephesus. 

 

Following a chart on this topic and adding our own pictorial imagery, what does the Book of Ephesians suggest the believer should do when demons appear to afflict individuals however strong, prayer is always appropriate? Paul’s final word on the topic, Ephesians 6 and because there is additional teaching, additional models as back in Philippi with the slave girl in Acts 16 and models from the ministry of Jesus would appear that there are some who have the ability to cast demons out, to exorcise demons from people who are more seriously oppressed, possessed. But then there is the somewhat uniquely modern phenomena, popular in some circles of exorcising places, building, lands, neighborhoods, rooms, artefacts, though there is no example in scripture of such a practice. Is it possible that certain spiritual powers could uniquely afflict certain geographical areas? There are one or two passages in the Book of Daniel, very difficult to interpret, that might suggest this, though it might not. But even if so, does that justify this type of exoticism? Is there anything less than fully appropriate and adequate than the power of prayer? I think not. In which case is it less productive to the witness of Gospel or take offense to publically call demons out of pagan temples of cities, nations etc., though some Christians have been caught up in some of these activities.